It was just a few months ago that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a landmark ruling regarding safety regulations for commercial ruck drivers, specifically the practice of keeping track of hours spent behind the wheel.
The ruling, which is aimed at better enforcing commercial trucking regulations regarding the logging of hours, is also meant to help combat driver fatigue, which continues to be a leading cause of commercial trucking accidents across the country.
In announcing the decision, representatives of the FMCSA noted its ongoing commitment to driver safety on the roads, citing the fact that evolving technologies give trucking companies (and regulators) unprecedented access to data and information, allowing safety inspectors and other personnel to identify any violations of federal trucking regulations.
Such violations put, not just commercial drivers at risk, but the general driving public as well.
How Is Commercial Trucking Regulated?
Commercial trucking regulations date back to the earliest days of the industry, especially the practice of logging and tracking hours. Although the practice officially began in the late 1930’s it has long faced criticism, with many in the industry suggesting that logs are easily manipulated, and companies could easily cut corners to avoid penalties or other restrictions.
That’s not to say that the logging of hours is not a necessary regulation. It is meant to specifically address driver fatigue, which is a key concern in many trucking accidents. And unfortunately, the frequency of trucking accidents is not on a downward trend. In fact, the frequency of trucking accidents, including those involving semi trucks, delivery vehicles of 18-wheelers, has increased by more than 20 percent over the course of the last twenty or so years.
As a result, regulations regarding commercial trucking continue to be taken very seriously. Over the course of the last few decades, these standards have been put in place to help reduce the risk for significant accident or injury. Typically, such regulations are focused on negligent behavior, which is widely known as the driving force of many commercial trucking incidents. Such behavior might include:
- Driver overwork
- Improper truck maintenance
- Driver fatigue
- Reckless driving, i.e. speeding
- Distracted driving
Under current federal law, any organization in the business of owning a trucking permit, whether it is an individual or organization, can be held liable for a commercial trucking incident, if the truck has the designated name or placard displayed.
What Pressures Do Commercial Drivers Face?
The job of a commercial trucker is not always an easy one, especially considering the long distances traveled and hours worked. It can become even more stressful when you factor in commercial deadlines and the company’s bottom line – with both serving as significant drives in the commercial trucking workforce today.
The most widely known pressure that commercial truckers endure is overwork, or driver fatigue, which has been linked to many severe accidents across the country. In fact, according to a recent report from the United States Department of Transportation, roughly 4,000 individuals lose their lives each year in accidents involving large trucks. Unfortunately, most of these are in some way caused by driver fatigue.
Additionally, research over the course of recent years has flagged long work hours, reduced sleep and insufficient recovery periods as prime areas of concern for those operating commercial trucks, all of which can lead to severe chronic fatigue problems.
With recent federal regulations, which have specifically targeted hours worked by commercial drivers, many professional organizations are adjusting to reduced time allotments, while also needing to meet the same quotas for cargo. Many companies are even facing increased cargo pressures, making the urge to cut corners all the more tempting.
As a result, many companies are facing elevated costs, which lead to tighter deadlines behind the wheel. Despite recent federal regulations have sought to address strict “restart”, or break, requirements, many commercial trucking entities continue to push the limits when it comes to maximum work hours, with some work weeks approaching 70 hours.
Why Does This Matter When It Comes to Operating Large Semi or 18-Wheeler Trucks?
It means a reduced ability to observe, assess and respond to the many dangers on the roadway. One of the most dangerous things about driver fatigue is the fact that it compromises a driver’s ability to assess their own performance or well being, making it far more likely that an accident or injury-causing incident might occur. For example, a fatigued driver might not be able to recognize that they are drifting into other lanes of traffic, which can pose a serious threat to other drivers on the roadway.
Unfortunately, that is when accidents occur, some of which resulting in severe personal injury or disability.
Have You Been in a Truck Accident?
Because commercial trucks are so much larger than other vehicles on the roadway, like your average automobile or motorbike, any accidents involving these vehicles tend to be more severe, in both injuries experienced and damage done. Injuries associated with these types of accidents can typically involve anything from minor cuts and bruises to serious head or spinal trauma, and many accidents may even prove fatal.
As a result, those dealing with personal injury tend to deal with a number of added challenges, including temporary or permanent disability, lost wages or ballooning medical costs.
If you or someone you know has been in an accident with a commercial truck, and is dealing with personal injury, however severe, it is in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Only a qualified attorney can evaluate your case and determine whether or not you may be eligible for a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Houston, Texas
For those residing in the greater Houston area in Texas, the skilled personal injury attorneys Charles J. Argento serve as the premier personal injury legal resource for those dealing with personal injury matters, including clients who have been involved in trucking accidents. Our attorneys are highly trained in all aspects of personal injury litigation, and can work with you to build a case that secures the maximum settlement for your injuries.
Whether you need guidance regarding a personal injury claim, or are looking for the best medical care to aide your recovery, our Houston truck accident attorneys are prepared to help you every step of the way.
Let us work with you to protect your rights, not just now, but well into the future. To schedule a free preliminary consultation to assess your case, call the personal injury attorneys at Charles J. Argento today at (713) 225-5050.